Pinnacle Bank Arena worries some, excites others


Expected to be completed in fall of 2013, the Pinnacle Bank Arena is utilizing 400 acres of land on the western side of the Haymarket District.
Photo and story by Kelly Morris, NewsNetNebraska

Four hundred acres of the land behind the Haymarket District is being ripped apart to build the new Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb. According to HaymarketNOW!, the arena is expected to be completed by fall of 2013. It will house the UNL men’s and women’s basketball teams, concerts, ice programs and other community events.

Some small business leaders are eager for the trade it is expected to bring while others fear that the downtown area will lose its local community feel.

Construction and parking

Daniel Patrick, owner of Danny’s Downtown Deli, has already felt the crush of the arena. The construction next to his business has torn up at least 18 parking spots and only replaced four.

“It’s kind of up in the air as to whether the arena will help my business when it’s finished,” Patrick said. “I think businesses open in the immediate vicinity of the arena will prosper, but we are a little further away so I don’t think it will bring in people walking by my deli on their way to arena.”

Phil Montag, field director for the arena, said that about 7,000 new parking spots will be made for the arena.

“Analysis concluded that at a maximum capacity, the arena will require less than 7,000 spots because people usually arrive in carloads of at least two people,” Montag said.

Aja Martin, general manager of Indigo Bridge Books is hesitant that there will be enough parking.

“A lot of people already say it’s really hard to get downtown,” Martin said.

Martin remembers when the O Street Overpass was being redone and the back parking to the Creamery Building was blocked off. She knows of a few businesses that closed from the lack of foot traffic and worries the same will happen with the arena construction.

New jobs created

The $340 million project is estimated to bring in a “$260 million annual economic impact on the Lincoln economy,” according to HaymarketNOW!

Scott Wendt, owner of Bluestem Books and spokesman for the No2Arena campaign believes that the arena will really cost three times more than what the public is being told.

“All those numbers came from consultants who are paid to tell people what they want to hear,” Wendt said. “Those numbers are just not viable.”

Montag, on the other hand said that he believes the numbers.

“Though the estimates are speculative in nature,” Montag said, “I believe there’s enough empirical data from other cities that have built arenas that the analysis has been sound.”

Cities like Memphis, Tenn., which built the $250 million FedExForum in 2001, have prospered from the arena, Montag said.

“Nearly every city the size of Lincoln in the country has done this,” Montag said. “Most troubling are cities like Grand Island, Ralston, Council Bluffs, Wichita, and other cities smaller than Lincoln that have arenas.”

Community atmosphere swept away

Indigo Bridge Books prides itself on their non-profit work and community involvement. Indigo Bridge Books, like many small businesses in the Haymarket, likes to use local ingredients to help out nearby farmers. Martin admits she does enjoy chain businesses, but she wants to make sure things are still done locally.

Indigo Bridge Books serves soup three times a week on a pay-as-you-go basis using local soup to benefit the community. They worry the arena will take away this community feel.

Montag said that residents in places with new arenas like Memphis and Oklahoma City originally had the same reservations as Martin.

“However, after having visited both cities before and after, I can attest that the arenas only complimented the unique aura of those cities,” Montag said.

Why the Haymarket?

Patrick, Martin and Wendt aren’t against the idea of Lincoln getting a new arena.

“I think a lot of the reason behind it was to improve the basketball program,” Patrick said. “I don’t have a problem with that.”

Martin agrees that this will improve the athletics for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln  and thinks it’s an opportunity for the downtown area to have some new growth.

“In terms of once it’s actually finished, I think it’s going to be great,” Martin said. “It’s just going to be really hard in the process of getting everything settled.”

Wendt thought sprucing up the Pershing Center could have been a better idea for Lincoln but Montag argues that with a growing city, the Pershing isn’t enough.

“Pershing Center was built in the 1950s to accommodate a city of 50,000,” Montag said. “It’s ceiling cannot support the sound system requirements for a modern Grade A concert tour like Paul McCartney or Lady Gaga.”

Estimated outcome

Though some business owners have doubts about of the changes the arena will bring, Montag is confident the Pinnacle Bank Arena will bring more good than bad to Lincoln.

“I think having a venue for sporting events, music, conventions, festivals, etc. will positively help the small businesses around the Haymarket because it’ll bring over a quarter of a million people to Lincoln annually,” Montag said. “Existing businesses may need to work harder to compete against the newer businesses that are coming to town, but overall it’s a positive change.”

Click the graph to see the estimated comparison of income for the Pershing and Pinnacle Bank Arenas

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